In 1972, an incredible woman stood up and declared her candidacy for president. Then added she didn’t believe she would actually win. It wasn’t a joke. It was a statement of fact. Becoming the first Black American female President was never a real possibility at that time. It was a purely symbolic gesture. Imagine taking that step in all seriousness just because that step alone was so important.
That’s what Shirley Chisholm did. She was the first Black female Congresswoman elected to the U.S. House district centered in Brooklyn in 1968. She was catapulted into the national limelight by virtue of her race, gender, and outspoken personality when, in a largely symbolic undertaking, she campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination. She served in the House of Representatives until January 1983, fighting for Blacks, minorities and those who were rarely heard. She ignored long standing norms and perceptions of what she could or couldn’t achieve, setting new norms for future generations.
This week we finally had the opportunity to share in a positive historical event. Forty-eight years after Shirley Chisholm made that famous speech, Kamala Harris has become the 46th Vice President of the United States of America. She may have benefited and been lifted up onto the shoulders of incredible leaders and staunch fighters for justice and equality like Shirley Chisholm, but she crashed through the glass ceiling all on her own.
Now we can only hope there are no shards left behind. Being of both Indian Tamil and Afro-Jamaican ancestry, she is a multiracial American in a multiracial marriage. After serving as the District Attorney in San Francisco in 2003, she went on to become the Attorney General for California in 2010. In 2016, California voted her into the senate. Only the second Black American woman to have gained that hard won title.
The first was Carol Moseley Braun in 1992. In a country that professes equality, justice and liberty for all, it makes sense we’d have overcome such petty and despicable means to diminish ones qualifications- genitalia or skin color. But before we go congratulating ourselves for finally voting in a female, Black, high ranking leader in the U.S. it’s hard to applaud our forward thinking when we put it in perspective.
We do not deserve any accolades. Since the 1960’s, 59 other countries beat us to those bragging rights! Israel, England, France, Germany India, Pakistan, Turkey, Thailand. But here we are, finally. Showing ourselves and the world that anyone, of any background, any gender, can accomplish anything.
People were dancing in the street celebrating this incredible but long awaited proclamation. Regardless of your politics, this is a monumental moment we are all sharing. Forty-eight years after Shirley Chisholm’s symbolic run for office, a Black woman did stand up and offer her incredible abilities, expertise and capabilities to the American people when she ran for President of the United States of America. It was not symbolic. Her credentials, education, expertise and devotion to the American people and our way of life made it very real. Forty- eight years later she may not have won the nomination for President but she did win the people’s resounding vote for Vice President. She made it clear- a woman of color leading this country is no longer a dream. It is now a reality that will open doors for all to follow.